Review: The Pope's Exorcist
Possession Was Only The Beginning
Father Gabriele Amorth, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican, investigates a young boy’s terrifying possession and ends up uncovering a centuries-old conspiracy the Vatican has desperately tried to keep hidden.
When you hear a new film is coming out in which Russell Crowe is putting on a mediocre accent and playing the role of the personal Exorcist to the Pope, your natural inclination would be to wonder how bad a movie are we talking about here? I myself scoffed and snickered when the title came up on the trailer for this, The Pope’s Exorcist, really?! And yet admittedly as I write this review, I seem to be more in the minority on the positive side of things from everything else I’ve seen in regard to said film. But while yes this at times is every bit the movie with the silly premise you think it is, it also has some interesting ideas that ultimately won me over.
First and foremost yes we’ve seen a million exorcist movies by now and there’s even another major film on the subject coming out later this year. This one doesn’t stand out from those for the most part. Its simple - kid gets possessed by a mysterious demon, Priest struggles with own sins as they prepare to take down said demon, demon puts up a hell of a fight (no pun intended), and the Priest ends up winning out and saving the kid. There's nothing here that’s going to blow your mind or make this anywhere near as good as The Exorcist. And yes the character writing here can be very shallow (especially with the family that is being haunted by the evil force), though I never got a vibe anyone here was phoning in their performances.
But the movie doesn’t try to get too complicated or try too many “shock factor” scenes. The sins that our main protagonist and his sorta-sidekick are grappling with are gems of a good character study on what temptations and doubt men of faith have to grapple with. And I thought for the most part that the movie did do a good job of straddling the mythology and lore of exorcism that has become its own stereotype of horror flicks with the realities of Priests who claim to do such work whether you believe these are possessed souls or not. It kind of made the movie feel more grounded than it should have. Personally I found myself kind of caring for these two men in their battle with Satan’s forces more so than other exorcism films have made me care that’s for sure. And while it is a bit overplayed, the finale is entertaining and delivers a lot of the things that have been teased throughout the movie.
While I can see why some will see this and blow it off as another come-and-go ‘Exorcist’ rip-off, I do think it did enough to make like it just enough to recommend it. I never got bored with it and I actually cared to see how things might play out. So even with the bad accent and some laughable dialogue (such as Crowe’s character pretending he came up with the concept of evil), I think horror fans will get enough even if we’re likely not talking about a classic either. I’ll initially give The Pope’s Exorcist an okay enough B- grade.